Today I am excited to introduce you to artist/mama/homeschooler Sara Evans. Sara takes a true DIY approach to her movement practice and reminds us about the importance of play when it comes to exercise. Welcome Sara!

How did you first come to your movement practice?

I’ve been a member at one gym or another since my first baby, about 12 years ago. I had easy access to one, working in a Ford facility, and was able to find time to use it several hours a day. I think it’s really important to discuss finding time to fit in movement while being a full-time parent. It’s easier said than done to make it a priority – and I think that’s okay. I wouldn’t want to feel bullied into carving out the time, either. One day you decide you can make it work, and you do – but there’s no sense in feeling guilty when you can’t. I think being a new mother is *enough*. I look back on those years fondly now. I don’t like the implication by some fitness memes out there that being a mom with young kids is an excuse. After baby #2 I found it hard to move with purpose, because I was distracted by more important work. For a few years my baby wouldn’t leave my side, and I was fine with that – they’re only young once. When she was old enough to be in the gym daycare, I would go and do the motions, but not feel I was getting anywhere. Now and then I would make a friend there and we would push one another and really see progress, at which point I realized that I am a very socially-motivated person. I looked into doing a class, something I hadn’t tried in a long time since doing boring step aerobics at a community center. Classes at the gyms were so much better! The instructors were better trained, and the types offered had evolved. I chose a cardio kickboxing class and immediately knew it’s what I had been missing in my movement needs. I like being surrounded by the energy of others and getting explicit instruction which pushed me farther than I would be able to push myself.
The other important thing I feel I should note is nutrition. I have always aimed for high quality organics in my diet, but was still suffering from fatigue and other symptoms that were holding me back in my exercise – so much so that I hit a plateau and took a break from classes for a few months. In the interim, I took up hoopdancing, wallyball, and still used the gym as I had before. After some trial and error I decided to eliminate gluten. I had immediate positive results and got back to more serious training again. To be clear – I’m not advocating a gluten-free or any other diet. I’ve learned that nutritional needs are a very personal thing, directly related to movement abilities, and need to be re-examined often as my movement goals evolve.

How long have you been practicing?

I took the gluten out in September 2012 – at which time I started working with a personal trainer, and then went back to my training classes. The instructor also began offering a park meet-up where we use a hill and playground equipment to train on. In addition, this year I started playing wallyball twice per week, instead of only twice per month. It’s now one of my favorite games to play and is a great workout as well as social outlet.

How do you integrate practice into everyday living?

Once I had been pushed extrinsically for a while, I was able to find the intrinsic push I needed to see the option to move in the everyday things I do. I still enjoy hoopdancing, which I have made room for indoors, to get me through this hard winter when getting to the gym proves difficult. Most importantly I try to look for movement opportunities everywhere I go now – bonus points for ways that involve the kids. We like doing stretches and yoga together at night, for instance.

I especially enjoy encouraging my kids to challenge me at the playground. Setting fun goals are important to me – the most enjoyable milestones are the ones that make me feel flexible and youthful. Last spring I wanted to do a few things that I remember being capable of doing as a kid: a back walk-over and hanging upside-down flips on the jungle gym bars. By summer, from combining strength training and playing with the kids at the parks, I had mastered both! The kids were happy to have me fully engaged in play, as well. Embracing things like taking them sledding, going for a bike ride and purposely hitting some hills, and swimming a few laps when we go to a pool or beach all add up to a significant amount of movement. Basically, if I want to move like I’m young I have to mimic the kids – do they sit still in the water? No, they splash like maniacs! Do they take their time getting back to the top of the sledding hill? No, they get there as fast as possible to go down again. Do they stick to the swings at the park? No way – they climb as high and fast over and over.

I like to involve the kids as much as possible, to be away from them less. Sometimes we’ll all go to a tennis court and the little one will fetch the balls for me and my oldest. Camping and nature hikes also tend to provide lots of opportunities for movement that involve my kids, and going out of my way on a path or taking a steeper incline at a swift pace are little things that add up. Seizing opportunities and using childlike movements are what I aim for. Using simple bursts of energy in my movements the way kids tend to do – running up the stairs, sprinting instead of jogging, learning a new skill like in hoopdancing – has gotten me farther than my previous boring gym routine ever could.

How has your practice affected you physically, emotionally, spiritually?

My favorite part about the evolution of my “workouts” has been the epiphany I’ve had about what it means to be successful in fitness. The number on the scale or on pants is usually the deciding factor for people, especially women. I feel like I’ve come to a place where the things my body is capable of doing is more important than it’s size or shape. The number on the scale probably hasn’t budged much since September 2012, but the fitness levels I’ve achieved have become something I can be really proud of. In September of this year I will run the Tough Mudder – which will involve increasing my training and being gone for a weekend. This isn’t something I would be able to do with younger kids, but now that mine are more independent I am able to focus myself emotionally in a positive way, without the guilt of time away from them holding me back. Plus, the more interest I show in fitness, the more my kids do as well. Sometimes I take the kids to class with me – at the park they can participate. Recently I took the youngest to a really intense class where (for safety reasons) she could only watch. She wanted so badly to join, and said more than once “This looks so fun!” – and it’s spiritually uplifting to know I am at a point where I completely understand why she would say that.

Sara Evans (along with husband Brian) is raising two girls, born ’01 & ’06. Her passions – in addition to playing like a kid! – include homeschooling her girls, natural living, and creating meaningful, functional crafts. She is founder of a secular Macomb County homeschool cooperative and owner of Etsy shop SunRaye Designs.